Is a digital recorder significantly better than a smartphone?
November 19, 2020 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Is a recorder like a Zoom H1 or H2 or Tascam DR05 an improvement over a smartphone using the Smart Recorder app? The app records in wav and you can set gain. Will a dedicated recorder in the 100 to 200 dollar range offer a significant improvement? Or are they obsolete for amateur musicians? This would be for recording instrumental and voice tracks for mixing on a computer. Thanks for your experience, Metafilter musicians!
posted by starfishprime to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have an old Roland Edirol that would record at a high quality and for everyday sorts of use I can't tell the recordings apart from my $200 Android phone.

This may not apply, but you might be better off putting a good microphone on a laptop.
posted by mecran01 at 12:27 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

Yes; I think your major gain (so to speak) will be much better mic hardware and stereo field control, especially with the X-Y setup like the H1n, and external mic capability. Of course, you can get the same thing with some external mic solutions for smartphones like the Zoom iQ6 for iPhone, and you can find XLR interfaces for smartphones as well.

Like with their cameras, smartphones can do a lot of post-processing on recorded audio to overcome the hardware limitations, and may sound similar to anyone but an audio engineer, but the raw product will never be as good.
posted by supercres at 1:11 PM on November 19 [3 favorites]

For recording music they will absolutely make a difference, the microphone and preamps on the zoom is what matters, not the file format or ability to set gain.
posted by grog at 1:45 PM on November 19 [3 favorites]

Totally. I have a Zoom H1 and I love it; the microphone is much better than the iPhone's, and you should pretty easily be able to hear the difference when you listen on headphones/good speakers in a "blind" test.
posted by rjacobs at 2:21 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

I do both of these things, mostly recording guitar and cello riffs.

The smartphone wins on convenience, but if I'm doing anything other than just trying to record a riff to remember it, the dedicated recorder wins. For your use case the dedicated recorder would be an improvement, although I'm sure adding a dedicated external mic to the phone would amount to the same thing, as supercres suggests (it might even be the best of both worlds, since you like your recording app). For one thing, smartphone mics are specifically designed to pick up sound right next to them, and for anything like an acoustic instrument that's a liability - it will sound better miked from several inches to several feet away.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:42 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

posted by umbĂș at 6:12 PM on November 19

Of course, yes! Iphone is a phone. Zoom is a standard among me and my musician friends.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:21 AM on November 20

Thanks for the replies, everyone!
posted by starfishprime at 10:42 AM on November 20

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